Pubdate: Wed, 07 Jan 2004
Source: Dispatch, The (NC)
Copyright: 2004, The Lexington Dispatch
Author: William Keesler


GREENSBORO Former Davidson County narcotics officer David Scott Woodall 
alleges that federal prosecutors violated an agreement to seek a lighter 
prison sentence for him if he provided information about the activities of 
other potential defendants, including Sheriff Gerald Hege. Prosecutors, 
however, deny making any such agreement with him.

They are opposing a motion by Woodall in U.S. District Court to vacate, set 
aside or correct his 27-year sentence in federal prison for conspiring to 
distribute illegal drugs, extortion and carrying a firearm during a crime 
of violence.

Woodall, 35, was one of five law enforcement officers convicted in 2002 in 
connection with a major federal and state investigation of distribution of 
cocaine, marijuana, steroids and Ecstasy. The others were fellow county 
narcotics officers Doug Westmoreland and Billy Rankin, Thomasville police 
Sgt. Rusty McHenry and Archdale police Sgt. Chris Shetley.

All five officers as well as five civilians pleaded guilty to charges in 
connection with the probe. Federal authorities portrayed Woodall as the 
"ringleader," and he received by far the longest prison sentence.

Woodall, however, states in court papers that he agreed to plead guilty 
after prosecutors promised to consider a lighter sentence for him if he 
provided information about other possible cases. He contends the promise, 
delivered orally through his lawyer but not written into the formal plea 
agreement, created an "implied contract" that prosecutors proceeded to 
breach. He also accuses prosecutors of using "immunized" information he 
provided about drug quantities and gun possession during debriefing 
sessions to file additional charges and obtain a longer sentence against him.

"(I)t appears that the government entered into the plea agreement in bad 
faith," Woodall alleges.

Because of the agreement, he writes, he met five times for several hours 
each with federal and state agents. In those sessions, he said, he provided 
information about Jonathan Apt, a Lexington man subsequently sentenced to 
prison for conspiring to distribute marijuana and steroids, and Elizabeth 
Ann Harward, a Lexington-area woman subsequently sentenced to prison on 
steroids-related charges.

He writes that he also provided information about the purchase and use of 
steroids by a second Thomasville police officer, who subsequently resigned, 
and also met with Georgia detectives to discuss a murder.

Woodall notes also that he admitted planting drugs under the Bristol Street 
home of Terrence Barriet, a convicted Lexington cocaine dealer and fellow 
inmate in a federal prison in Kentucky. In an effort to keep Barriet behind 
bars, federal authorities used Westmoreland as a witness in a hearing last 
fall to dispute Woodall's account. Like Woodall, Barriet has filed a 
still-pending motion to vacate, set aside or correct his own sentence.

Woodall writes that Lisa Costner of Winston-Salem, his first defense 
lawyer, told him prosecutors would also consider, after his sentencing, 
filing a motion to reduce his prison term if he "continued to cooperate in 
the investigation of Gerald Keith Hege Sr., as it was proposed that if the 
government was successful in obtaining an indictment against 'Hege,' that 
the petitioner's testimony would be needed in the event that 'Mr. Hege' 
exercised his right to trial."

Because of broken promises by the government, Costner and his second 
lawyer, Eugene Metcalf of Winston-Salem, should have let him withdraw his 
guilty plea and proceed to trial, writes Woodall, who is now serving as his 
own attorney.

Federal authorities, in keeping with policy, have never confirmed nor 
denied that they were investigating Hege. The sheriff, suspended since last 
September, awaits trial in state court on charges of embezzlement, 
obtaining property by false pretenses and obstruction of justice as well as 
on a petition to remove him from office for corruption.

During the state probe of Hege, agents with the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation sat in on some interviews of potential witnesses by the State 
Bureau of Investigation.

U.S. Attorney Anna Mills Wagoner, in a written response signed by Assistant 
U.S. Attorney Sandra Hairston, who prosecuted Woodall, denies that Woodall 
was ever promised he would receive a motion for a lighter sentence for 
providing assistance. She also states that investigators had sources of 
information other than Woodall for the charges on which he was indicted. 
And she argues that Woodall's credibility is tainted by "the false 
testimony" he provided in the Barriet case.

"While petitioner did submit to several debriefings with federal agents, 
the information he provided did not substantially assist the government in 
the investigation and prosecution of other targets prior to the time of his 
sentencing," Wagoner states. "The government is not required to file a 
substantial assistance motion simply because a defendant thinks he should 
get one. Such a notion is completely absurd."

Wagoner's response is accompanied by affidavits from both Costner and Metcalf.

Costner writes that after talking with Hairston she told Woodall "there was 
a good possibility that he might not receive a reduction in his sentence." 
She said she told him that filing a motion to reduce a sentence for 
substantial assistance was "in the sole discretion of the United States 
Attorney's office. ... He made his decision to cooperate fully informed of 
all of these facts."

Metcalf writes that Woodall, "at great risk and peril to himself and his 
family, ... provided significant information to law enforcement about this 
matter and other matters under investigation."

He writes that he and Woodall discussed withdrawing Woodall's guilty plea 
based on Woodall's belief that the government had agreed to a sentence 
reduction for substantial assistance, but after weighing numerous factors 
they decided against it.

Woodall's motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence is now before 
U.S. District Judge William Osteen, who originally sentenced him, for a ruling.
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